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The Design Group incorporates a range of expertise across the spectrum of design research and reflects a non-discipline-specific approach to understanding design and design processes. Our research is wide-ranging, often drawing on, and combining with, other disciplines. We work in many sectors and contexts including product and manufacturing, fashion, urban and built environment, participatory design, sustainability, innovation, energy and climate change. Our teaching and research are mutually reinforcing.

Over the last 50 years the group has developed world-leading expertise in the processes, approaches and tools for delivering design education at a distance. The OU Design Group has performed consistently well in National audits of research quality, repeatedly appearing in the top ten UK institutions for research quality in Design. We are a supportive community of researchers and welcome new members of the group, whether they are staff or students: it’s a great place to do a PhD!

The research that the Design Group undertakes seeks to advance understanding of design and innovation’s role in society, to transform lives and to challenge the ways that people participate in this change. Our research is clustered around key themes:

  • design processes
  • sustainable design and innovation
  • collaborative design
  • complexity and design
  • distance design education.

Key facts

  • The first journal in design, Design Studies, was founded by the group and we continue to have editorial input.
  • The group is recognised for its internationally excellent research and has been consistently highly ranked across all research assessment exercises.
  • OU Design staff have strategic roles in international design research organisations: The Design Society; and The Design Research Society.


The OU’s Design Group is part of Government doctoral training programmes which fund doctoral studentships.

Current funding for design studentships can be applied for via the Open Oxford Cambridge (OOC) Doctoral Training Partnership.

Applications for both full- and part-time studentships have a deadline of early January each year for studentships that begin the following autumn. Further information can be found on the OOC website and via our design blog.


The group has design prototyping facilities, STEM laboratories and digital design studio technologies:

  • The FabLab
  • Open Digital Prototyping Lab
  • Open STEM Labs.


Recent publications



Research topics

Explore specific areas of research, current and prospective projects, entry requirements, available supervisors and contact details for advice.

Collaborative design

Complexity and design

Design processes

Sustainable design and innovation